Q: My wife and I don't spend a lot of downtime together. It's not like we're out carousing with other people. But jobs, kids and other important responsibilities are taking their toll. How do we find time for ourselves?
Jim: Your situation is not unique. Many husbands and wives today are running in opposite directions. We're too wrapped up in work and even in our kids' activities. It's like we're addicted to being busy.
If you wait for life to "settle down" on its own, you'll never make progress. You have to take active steps to make time for each other, and to foster genuine intimacy in your relationship.
Dr. Harold L. Arnold Jr., an organizational psychologist, has developed an acrostic -- C.O.R.E. -- to help couples put intimacy back in their marriage. Maybe you'll find it helpful.
"C" stands for commitment. Commit to a specific day and time each week when you and your wife can spend an hour in conversation -- without any distractions. Unless there's an emergency, stick to this commitment.
"O" represents openness. Be honest with your spouse about your needs, desires and fears. Open up with her; don't hold it all in.
The "R" in C.O.R.E. stands for repent. Many of the supposed flaws you see in your spouse are associated with your past behaviors. Own up to your mistakes and be willing to forgive your spouse for hers.
Finally, the "E" represents empathy. Your wife will only open up if she senses that you really understand her and love her unconditionally. Take time to listen without prejudice and to respond unselfishly.
Commitment, openness, repentance and empathy -- the C.O.R.E. of marriage. If you and your spouse will make these behaviors a top priority, chances are excellent that you'll feel more connected even amidst the busyness of life.
Q: My sister is getting married next month, and I don't like the guy she's marrying. I've hinted that I don't like him, but I'm wondering if I should say something or if I should just support her decision.
Juli: My first question would be, "What don't you like about your potential brother-in-law"? If your concerns have more to do with superficial issues like appearance, interests or even personality, it's probably better for you to keep your opinions to yourself and work on getting to know him better. If, however, your objections are more substantial, relating to his character or how he treats your sister, sharing these thoughts may be very important. Do your parents and others who know your sister's fiance have similar concerns? If so, this is another indication of red flags that are worth bringing up.
This close to a wedding, no bride wants to hear that a sibling is not completely supportive. So, be very careful how you address the topic. It's much better to have one very intentional conversation than to let criticism and concern "drip out" over the years. As pastors in the movies used to say, "Speak now or forever hold your peace."
I recommend getting your sister alone, uninterrupted. Tell her how much you love her and care about her. Sensitively share with her some of the things you've noticed, and ask her if she has any of these concerns as she approaches her wedding. If so, suggest the possibility of talking about these with a pastor or counselor. Most importantly, tell your sister that whatever she decides, you'll be 100 percent behind her.
Once she's married, your job is to support your sister and her new marriage. Even if you're not thrilled about the guy she chose, he's family now. Become a safe place for your sister to process the joys and challenges of their new marriage and do everything you can to help them succeed.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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